We spent a week and a half in Austria, visiting Salzburg and Innsbruck at the end of November. We wanted to see Austria especially for the mountains. During the trip-planning, I learned that Innsbruck is known in Europe as the Capital of the Alps and I didn’t need to convince Geoff to go there.
It was also a nice change in pace: in Berlin and Hannover, we were feeling very blah about travelling and we had finally got back our travel groove in Munich. The momentum continued to build in Austria, because of its history, nature, and Christmas spirit.
Austria turned out to be one of our favourite countries on this trip, because of three things:
In Salzburg, we stumbled across this hiking trail near the Salzburg Fortress and it opened up to a beautiful lookout point. We got an amazing view of the Alps.
In Innsbruck, we took the famous Nordkette cable car all the way up to the top of Haefelkarspitze, which sits at 7,400 feet. We were rewarded with a magnificent 360 degree view of the Austria Alps. It was breathtaking.
It was also hot! The sun at that altitude is blinding and both of us totally forgot to bring sunglasses.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Salzburg is proud to be the birthplace of Mozart. You can’t go anywhere without seeing the weird Mozart chocolates on sale. It’s a truffle with marzipan and pistachio – you know, that Pot of Gold chocolate no one really knows what it is, until you bite into it and remember that’s the really gross one.
Salzburg also has some great museums to visit on Mozart. We visited his birthplace, which is a beautiful apartment building in the historical city centre. We also went where him and his family lived, which is another building across the river. We listened to an audio tour throughout the museum and learned that he was a very tiny man. He was my height (5’3″), and apparently, quite ugly. Poor guy.
Later on that week, we got a chance to attend a piano concert by two Romanian pianists at a small church in the Salzburg Castle. Listening music in an old city put me back in time. It was a wonderful experience.
Mulled Wine at the Christkindlmarkts
Austrians take Christmas VERY seriously and that involves markets that sell all sorts of Christmas ornaments, gifts, Krampus, and most importantly, Austrian food and mulled wine.
Both in Salzburg and Innsbruck, the Christmas markets took up the historical city centres and were always bustling with lots of people. The wooden stands, the sparkling lights, and the women dressed up as angels made me feel like I was in a Christmas movie.
We ate fresh pretzels, sausages, apple strudel, gingerbread cookies, and fresh crepes. It was so cozy and beautiful at night. It certainly put us in the Christmas spirit.
So let’s talk about mulled wine, also known as the most delicious beverage ever.
Mulled wine is warmed wine with mulling spices and raisins. I drank it almost every day we were in Austria. The mulled wine at the Toronto Christmas Market pales in comparison to the real Austrian stuff (which I think also had some liquor in it).
They give it to you in a cool mug that keeps it warm. You return the mug get your two euro deposit back. I kept one mug from Salzburg and one from Innsbruck.
If you ever get a chance to visit Austria in November and December, it is quite a treat. The weather isn’t the best – in Salzburg, we only got rain and cold, and in Innsbruck, it got pretty chilly. But don’t worry: fresh, warm crepes and mulled wine will keep you warm and toasty!